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The Midterms Impact on Rural Water

Posted By NRWA Communications , Thursday, November 8, 2018

After Election Day counts came through late Tuesday night, Democrats had won control of the House for the first time in eight years, while Republicans expanded their control of the Senate. As of yesterday, Democrats flipped 27 House seats and now control 221 seats, while Republicans have 196 (with 17 races yet to be declared). In the Senate, Republicans hold a 51-46 majority, with Republicans leading in two races yet to be called, Florida and Arizona, and Mississippi will head to runoff later this month.


President Trump will face new challenges when it comes to Congress as the Democrats in the House now have the ability to stifle some of his legislative agenda on immigration while also attempting to subpoena his tax records. Thanks to Republicans picking up additional Senate seats, that chamber will become a “firewall” of sorts against the newly empowered House leadership and agenda.


One place where House Democrats, Senate Republicans and the White House could find common ground, and ultimately a bipartisan agreement, could be on infrastructure spending which is encouraging to Rural Water. “Last night I had a conversation with President Trump about how we could work together, one of the issues that came up was ... building infrastructure for America, and I hope that we can achieve that," potential new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters yesterday highlighting the jobs that could be created in "surface transportation, water systems ... broadband ... schools, housing and the rest.” The key outstanding issue that will be the primary point of contention during the infrastructure debate will be how to pay for it. There are rumblings that an increase in the gas tax or reducing tax cuts for corporations could be ways of doing so.


The new 116th Congress is set to be sworn in January 3rd 2019. Here are how the congressional committees pertinent to Rural Water will likely be impacted:  


House Committees


Agriculture: Incoming chairman Collin Peterson from Minnesota said he doesn’t want to wait until he claims the gavel in January to pass a farm bill—even though that would allow him to write his own legislation. There could be a last minute deal on the Farm Bill this lame duck session of Congress, however an extension of the law is more likely.


Appropriations: Ranking member Nita Lowey from New York is set to be the first woman to lead the powerful appropriations committee. She’s been ranking member since 2013.


Transportation and Infrastructure: Rep. Peter DeFazio from Oregon is currently the ranking member and expected to take the lead of T&I this January. He will be a leader in developing any infrastructure legislation.


Energy and Commerce: Rep. Frank Pallone from New Jersey will most likely become chairman of this committee and will be focusing on environmental regulation and making healthcare more affordable.  


Senate Committees


Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry: The current Committee Chairman Pat Roberts will retain the gavel and chairmanship of this Committee. He was not up for re-election. His counterpart and able partner Senator Stabenow from Michigan won re-election and will likely continue to be the ranking member as they both work to enact a Farm Bill. Senator Heitkamp, a Democrat from ND, lost her reelection bid which opens up a seat on this Committee.


Appropriations: There will be minimal, if any, changes in the Republicans’ lineup of leaders on this powerful committee.  Chairman Richard Shelby from Alabama and the team of subcommittee “cardinals’’ he assembled six months ago are prepared to tackle a full set of FY2020 spending bills early next year after they clear the decks of FY2019 before the end of 2018 during this lame duck session. Neither Shelby nor any of the subcommittee chairs stood for re-election this fall.


Environment and Public Works: Republicans lead by Senator Barrasso from Wyoming will continue to control this committee in the 116th Congress and may try to pass a highway bill. This Committee was successful in passing and enacting a massive water infrastructure bill just last month.

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